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Thread: Contact printing for dummies

  1. #1

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    Contact printing for dummies

    It looks like I will be taking delivery of my green monster in about a month. Another month later and I may have a lens. Figure one more month for holders, film, paper, chemestry, meter, printing frame.......etc. For the forseeable future I will be making B&W contact prints of which I have made one 4x5 under an enlarger (and that was decades ago).

    Let us digress even a bit more here. I live in a FEMA trailer, so space is at an incredable premium. Thus, I've pretty much concluded that a Unicolor drum (or two) is pretty much in my future for both film and paper. I'm thinking FP4+ and DD-X recalling a recommendation from Ralph.

    We are talking bare bulb paper exposure here. The Kentmere Bromide/130 combination looks promising a as printing medium but i could really use some advice there. I mostly hit upon this as I used to love Kodabromide for enlarging and there is bomide in the name (have I mentioned the "dummies" part yet?). I'm thinking that enlarging paper may be too fast and difficult to control.

    So can someone tell me how I am messing up so far? And while you're at it tell me all about contact printing in 8x10 :=P or point me toward some resources.

    Thanks, ~j

  2. #2

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    Further you put the light away the less powerfull. Inverse square rule or something like that. Also smaller bulbs help. When I say smaller I mean less watts. No idea how fast that paper is but you may want to start out with a bulb smaller then 15watts.

  3. #3

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    I'm also thinking 11x14 as a self-matting print size. Any recommendations for a printing frame would be appreciated.

    And thanks, Nick.

  4. #4

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    A bare bulb for contact printing is fine, you just need to get it at a wattage and height such that the negative is covered evenly from edge to edge without making your exposure times too long or too short (longer better than shorter so that you can do some dodging and burning). I used to put the bulb in a flood llamp holder bought at Home Depot for about $5 to help spread the light out.

    I'm not sure about using 11x14 paper for 8x10 negatives. When you contact print you turn the frame upside down, put the negative on the glass, then put the paper over it and attach the back (at least that's how I did it). So when you put the paper down you can't see the negative to position it in the center of the paper. With 8x10 negatives and paper that isn't a problem, you just hold them together as you're putting them on the glass then make sure they don't move as you attach the frame back. And I guess if your frame was exactly 11x14, or if you just used two pieces of glass instead of a frame, it wouldn't be problem either, you could just center the negative on the glass and make sure it doesn't move as you're putting the paper down. But it's something to think about when you're buying a frame.

    The frame I used was made by a guy named Doug Kennedy in California, I don't know if he's still in business and I have no contact information for him. He made frames by hand and they were top quality, with a split back for alt processes and very strong clamps to keep the paper and negative in perfect contact. That's important because if they aren't in perfect contact throughout you get little soft spots in the print. That used to happen when I fused a cheap Premier frame. There also used to be a place called Great Basin Frames or something like that, they had a reputation for top quality as well.

    Good luck, contact printing is a lot of fun and if you're in a FEMA trailer you deserve some fun.

  5. #5
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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Rice
    I'm also thinking 11x14 as a self-matting print size. Any recommendations for a printing frame would be appreciated
    I always make any contact prints that I intend to keep on a piece of paper that's larger than the negative, for two reasons - to have a margin for safety in handling, and to be able to corner mount the print should I ever want to frame it, rather than being forced to hinge or dry mount it.

    I would start with two large pieces of quarter-inch glass - say, at least 12x16 if you intend to print on 11x14 paper - rather than with a print frame. Have whoever cuts the glass for you bevel the edges so that you won't cut your fingers all the time.

    I have a Premier 11x14 frame which is a piece of junk. I also have Great Basin printing frames in 8x10 and 11x14 sizes, but while they're beautifully made, I still have Newton ring problems with them. I have a vacuum frame that I hope to start experimenting with shortly, but at least among the tricks I've tried so far, the glass sandwich has given me the least trouble with Newton's rings. And as a starting point, it's cheaper, too.

  6. #6

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    I use a small glass end table top I bought in an import shop (Pier 1?) its a heavy piece of glass with the edges smoothed out and it didn't cost a lot of $$. The bottom of the "sandwich" is a piece of smooth, thick rubber matting I scavenged from somewhere (its been so long I don't remember) A painter's light from the hardware store and a 60 watt bulb. For a safelight I've been using G.E. Guide Lamps (night lights) that came 2 for 79 cents on a card at Walgreen's, but they stopped making them. While I soup film in a Unicolor print drum, I always develop prints in trays---watching the image magically appear is a major "ya-ya" element for me!

    Good luck!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  7. #7

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    I agree with the idea of the painter's light - mine cost about $10. You can adjust the height easily with that. I've begun using Kentmere Bromide for enlarging, and using exposures in the range of 30sec f/16-22, so you may find that you need a fairly low wattage bulb. I like the look of Ansco 130 with the paper. It gives a little warmth to the paper, but only a little.

    Contact printing is great fun.
    juan

  8. #8

    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    okay, don't know if this helps, BUT- check out www.retrophotographic.co.uk They list daylight printing out paper (POP) and contact frames. If you live in a trailer, it might just work for you. I don't know their shipping terms to the USA- the site only says to call for info. Also, their site shows a sample image by Ole Tjuen who (I'm sure) posts here and might advise you. Best of luck.

  9. #9

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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    POP paper is also available in the US, so you could save some $$ on shipping. Chicago Albumen Works or something like that (they're located in Mass. Go figure!) You can print on the roof of your trailer---but you'll need a POP frame (contact frame with a the backhinged down the middle) Put ol' Sol to work!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  10. #10
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    Re: Contact printing for dummies

    The problem with POP is that it tends to like beefy negatives developed to a much higher contrast than would be a good fit for enlarging paper. You really have to decide which way you want to go - if you want your negatives to print conveniently on enlarging paper at any point, best to develop them for that purpose now, and tweak your contact printing setup so that you can work comfortably with enlarging paper.

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